Why Renal Medullary Carcinoma Clinical Trial Participation Is Pivotal
Why Renal Medullary Carcinoma Clinical Trial Participation Is Pivotal from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.
What do renal medullary carcinoma (RMC) patients need to know about clinical trials? Expert Dr. Nizar Tannir explains the importance of clinical trial participation, what is examined in clinical trials, and advice for patients who are considering clinical trials.
Dr. Nizar Tannir is a Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“…you should not be afraid of trials, you should embrace them and you should participate in them…the role of the physician is to explain the rationale and the potential benefits and potential toxicity, because everything has a price. Unfortunately, there are some drugs that could cause side effects, but hopefully it’ll be worthwhile to achieve to break the barrier of cure.”
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Why is clinical trial participation so critical in RMC, and what advice do you have for RMC patients considering a clinical trial?
Clinicall trials are important in oncology in general, and specifically in tumors that are rare and aggressive. For decades now, I would say for the past 20 plus years since the initial reports of RMC were made back in the mid ’90s, I will recognize that RMC was a cancer that affects individuals who have sickle cell trait, chemotherapy has been the mainstay and it’s still a reliable and good treatment to start with. But we can’t stop with just chemotherapy, we can’t just have chemotherapy. We need more effective drugs, we need more drugs because unfortunately, not every single patient with RMC will respond to chemotherapy like Herman did and be cured and alive and are living well 10 years, 11 years and beyond.
Patients may respond to treatment and has often happened, unfortunately, the resistance sets in so the cancer cells become resistant to the chemotherapy that you gave to the patient. And then the disease will start progressing again. So you need to think about other therapy. So while we have more than one chemotherapy regimen we can treat our patients with, we still need to identify relevant targets for RMC that we can develop new therapies. And this is where clinical trials become important. And so my activation tip is for patients with RMC to consider participating in clinical trials with the hope that we will bring to FDA approval, newer drugs, and not just chemotherapy. I can mention to you, Cora, that with the first trial we launched in RMC was in 2015 with a drug called tazemetostat (Tazverik).
We opened this trial. We launched this trial with this drug, which was oral, in many rare tumor types and I lobbied, I worked hard with the Epizyme, the company at the time, which was subsequently bought up by another company to have a cohort of patients with RMC to treat them with this drug. And people were skeptical that I will be able to recruit and enroll any patient on this trial. And I said, “I know if we have this trial, patients will come.” As the saying goes, you build it and they’ll come. We opened the trial. Within six months, I had nine patients enrolled within six months. Whereas in the past, we used to see one, two patients per year. In six months we had nine patients enrolled in the trial. The trial, we finally finished the trial.
Unfortunately, the drug did not provide durable benefit to patients, although we saw dramatic responses that were brief lasting only weeks, but there were dramatic responses. So, but we cannot achieve success without having to go through failures. We cannot be discouraged by negative trials, by negative results or disappointing results or results that are gratifying, but for a short period of time and then the cancer progresses. So my activation tip is for patients and their loved ones to support clinical trials that are well thought out that bring the opportunity to patients with RMC and other cancers, the opportunity to test some novel therapies based on grounded in biology.
You really have to do the research first. You really have to identify relevant targets, and you develop these therapies against those targets to really be able to say, you know I believe this will work and it may not work, but we have to try it. And so my activation tip is trials…you should not be afraid of trials, you should embrace them and you should participate in them. But, of course, you know the role of the physician is to explain the rationale and the potential benefits and potential toxicity, because everything has a price. Unfortunately, there are some drugs that could cause side effects, but hopefully it’ll be worthwhile to achieve to break the barrier of cure.